Richard Wright, African American author of Black Boy
and Native Son
, grew up in the segregated South of the 1920s. His formal education ended after he completed the ninth grade, but gaining access to the public library with the help of a white coworker opened up a new world of books for him, eventually inspiring him to become a writer. Richard Wright and the Library Card
is a fictionalized account of this powerful story, deftly adapted by William Miller from a scene in Black Boy
Miller--a professor of African American literature and author of the critically acclaimed Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery, A House by the River, and Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree-- masterfully builds suspense, as readers wonder how the young African American will quench his thirst for books without being busted by the local white librarian. Wright's story is perfectly complemented by the work of Gregory Christie, winner of the 1997 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award for Palm of My Heart. (Ages 5 to 9)
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5?In Memphis in the 1920s, public library borrowing privileges did not extend to blacks. Yet, 17-year-old Richard Wright's hunger to read inspires him to take a dangerous risk. He borrows the library card of a white co-worker and goes to the library with a forged note requesting permission to check out books for the man. The librarian treats him with suspicion, until Richard claims to be illiterate. This final act of self-deprecation elicits laughs from the librarian and other patrons. While the author's note acknowledges that this story is based on a scene from Wright's autobiography Black Boy, Miller takes significant liberties with the fictionalization. A comparison with the original shows that although the librarian questioned the note, she did not laugh at Richard. The harsh portrayal is reinforced through Christie's impressionistic illustrations done in acrylic and colored pencil. While this book is written in a straightforward, easily comprehensible manner, titles such as Marie Bradby's More Than Anything Else (Orchard, 1995) and Robert Coles's The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic, 1995) describe a love of learning hindered by racism in a more inspiring way.?Jackie Hechtkopf, Talent House School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.